Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
(Available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)
(PlayStation 4 version used for review)
Crash Bandicoot 4 is the latest game Activision have brought out the N.Sane trilogy 2 years ago being full on remakes of the PlayStation 1 games as well as a remakes of CTR to build up the franchise from the ashes. With Crash 4 we have a new developer, Vicarious Visions were working on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake and the job was handed over to Toys For Bob who developed the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. The game is fundmentally the same as the N.Sane trilogy and picks up from the end of Crash 3 (effectively erasing all the games past Wrath of Cortex on PS2 to be a partial reboot). Dr Neo Cortex and Dr N. Tropy have escaped from their time travel prison and are now messing with reality by fracturing several timelines and Crash and his sister Coco have to stop them. It’s as basic a Crash plot as it gets though there’s some nice call backs to previous games in here that I won’t completely spoil. the game structure is also very similar to several areas and complete several levels to progress to the next however this time you only have to beat 4 levels as opposed to 5 though a few optional ones also pop up. the other differences are that this time you don’t chose the order of the mandatory levels it’s completely linear like Crash 1 and there’s no crystal to collect. Instead when you reach the end of a level you get a series of gems, there’s of course the box gem for breaking every box in the level but now there’s a hidden gem in each level plus 3 gems for getting 40,60 and 80% of the whumpa fruit in each level and a gem for dying 3 times or less. Plus if you can get all in 1 run you get a perfect gem for your troubles. the game also brings back the time relics and adds a couple of multiplayer functions to boot.
- Controls: the controls in this game will be very familiar to anyone who has played the recent N.Sane trilogy and will really be memorable to anyone who played the PS1 games. The controls however feel a bit more refined than previously which if you compared with the N.Sane trilogy, I liked the controls with N.Sane Trilogy but a couple of levels were showing the age of the controls. That’s not the case with Crash 4 it really feels like it was very well crafted whilst maintaining a lot of the classic feel. The biggest changes have been that Crash and Coco have a double jump from the start which works better than ever but the most welcome edition is a circle below each character after jumping to help judge distance and depth in order to make more precise jumps something that was a complaint in previous games though if you think it makes the game too easy it can be turned off. the other big edition is the 4 masks which add new dimensions to each level, 1 effects reality on which boxes or platforms appear, 1 gives you extra Hight with a massive spin jump, 1 freezes time and 1 changes gravity to walk on the ceiling. They all add some generally good gameplay, are easy to control , are generally wellcome and I don’t have an issue except when the level design doesn’t fit it but we’ll get to that.
- Gameplay styles: other crash games would often add tons of gameplay styles but would either be a distraction like the bike and jet ski levels in Crash 3 but Crash 4 adds 3 other characters to play as Tawna, Dingodile and Dr Cortex. They each are based around the standard Crash platforming with slight tweeks. Tawna gets a wall jump and a hook shot and is the funest of the 3 to play, Dingodile is a bit slower but gets a suction gun which makes for fun combat though his floater jump got me in trouble, Dr Cortex on the other hand gets a ray gun to transform enemies into blocks and bouncy platforms as well as a forward dash. I have my issues with cortext but what I like about all these characters gameplay is that they don’t drastically change the game so don’t feel like a massive shift and feel fun for the most part to play. Plus they’re almost entirely optional they are only required for 2 levels each though you will need to do each of their levels for 100% completion, and belive me we’ll get to that.
- Multiplayer: the multiplayer involves passing the controller but it’s a really cool idea. You can set it so the next player takes over either after check point or death or so on but also offers multiplayer for competitive play which adds a fun extra way to play the game. It unfortunately doesn’t offer online multiplayer at this stage which would’ve been cool especially with a whole bunch of us being more restricted visiting our friends but I don’t think any of us were expecting multiplayer, and good multiplayer at that, so take what you can.
- Graphics and Performance: the game looks amazing, this feels like a real evolution from N.Sane trilogy though feels a little more lively and expressive. What’s aided the look is that unlike Vicarious Visions, Toys For Bob aren’t remaking a series of games but instead making their own game so can make their own environments and style which benefits their creativity. The game also runs at a cool 60 frames per second which is a step up from N.Sane’s 30, well at least it did on my PlayStation 4 pro. I’ve heard that original PlayStation 4’s original models of Xbox One’s do have frame rate dips though even from what I’ve seen it’s not too awful and doesn’t ruin the game. you also gets some really interesting art styles to the graphics which I won’t dare spoil once you unlock the inverted versions of levels
- Boss fights: some of the best in the series not a bad one in the bunch that’s all I got
- Soundtrack: it’s not bad but unlike Crash2 and 3 it’s just not too distinctive and other than Tawna’s first level they don’t stand out to me
- Level design: it’s generally really good for the most part with some cool platforming, themes and it generally well designed. Most levels don’t feel like they go on too long and most don’t have cheap level design leading to death though there are some exceptions and some of the design choices feel like they were deliberately trollish to people going for 100% completion such as way too many hidden boxes off screen or platforming challenges that require trial and error to figure out a formula of getting everything which become an issue if you’re hoping to get the 3 deaths or less gem and even worse if you’re going for the perfect gem or aiming to pick up the video tape in the level which requires not dying before reaching. Put it this way you know the level designers are trolling when there’s a box hidden behind a wall in the first level which almost ensures on your first try you will be 1 box short.
- The various costumes: they’re cool and easy to earn (no microtransaction so far fortunately) but they really don’t add too much other than few ones which are nice call backs to games from the past and only really add extra collectable for 100% completion
- Dr Cortex’s levels: I wasn’t a big fan of Cortex’s gameplay. I found his levels to be the biggest shift gameplay wise and it takes way more getting used to, my biggest problem is with the aiming of Cortex’s gun. If I was slightly off where enemies were tuned into platforms or bouncy platforms it made the rest of the platforming that much more difficult plus there’s a few issues I had with his platforming where I had issues judging distance of things like his forward rush. His levels are ok and mostly optional but are the weakest part of the game
- The final levels: I’ve heard a few reviews point this out but it bears repeating. The final levels are really designed to frustrate you to no end. They take all the trollish level design points and turn them up to 11. I died over 120 times in the final level trying to complete it and it drove me insane with how precise they were expecting me to be even after abandoning trying to break all the boxes
- Load times: I was playing on a PS4 pro but even then I occasionally had load times lasting nearly a minute which probably will be even worse on an original PS4. This is something which will improve if you use the backwards compatibility features on the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X since those have SSD drives which are deliberately designed to cut load times but for now expect a wait between levels.
- Level structure for optional levels: this applies to the Twana, Dingodile and Cortex levels. There’s nothing wrong with the levels per se, the problem comes part way through the level when you come to a moment which requires you to play as Crash or Coco during a segment of a level you’ve already done. See these levels are designed to show what that character was doing when you were playing this level and when their part is done you go back to playing as Crash and Coco in a section you’ve already done. If you count the inverted versions of each levels that’s several areas you’re doing 4 times with minimal change for 100% (I’m getting Sonic Heroes flashbacks just saying that)
- Trying to go for 100% completion: I couldn’t do it, because of how this game is designed the game’s difficulty is dependent on it. If you’re not going for 100% completion the levels are way easier and it’s when you will have the most fun with Crash but with the way boxes are placed in some levels, the weird location of hidden gems which I swear some are impossible to discover without looking up on the internet and all the hoops you’re expected to jump through to get 100% the diifculty is a nightmare. I can’t count how many times I thought I had all the boxes only to be missing a few or have seen a platforming challenge so difficult to get all the boxes that it broke me and I just would go nuts with each failed attempt. The time trials aren’t bad this time because unlike when they were added to Crash 1 & 2 in N.Sane trilogy the levels have been constructed with that in mind even with stricter times. The N.Sane trilogy had some tough challenges but it felt manageable, this game because of sheer requirement for 100% makes it feel like a chore which I haven’t gone back to
Crash Bandicoot 4 looks great and just doing all the levels from start to finish without going for 100% makes this game one of the best platformers in recent memory. The controls feel way more precise, the levels are well designed and it feels like a nice throwback to the classic games whilst adding modern flare to it. the game goes downhill when you go for 100% completion with some really overboard challenges and collectables and they really could’ve dialled back a bit on it. but you absolutely should get this game because if you tailor it to your likeing you can get a lot of great play time out of it
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